Straight Talk - V9


By The People's Chemist

With a pilot dad, my kids started flying in prop planes as infants, grabbing the yoke as toddlers.  Our oldest kids learned stick and rudder as teens.

I don't believe in T-ball, churches, parades or Well Child visits. I believe in crazy-ass life experience and treating them like human beings - not animals to be pacified by a screen, sugar and pills.

Sometimes that means enduring a flight over the Rockies, then Lake Powell, over the Grand Canyon and finally into the thirsty, dry air of Phoenix, Arizona on the hottest day of June with turbulence that'll make you never want to fly again.

That was yesterday.


We climbed out of southern Colorado and aimed directly south. Our ship was quickly re-routed as the cumulous clouds engulfed us from below - billowing faster than forecasted.

The People's Chemist - Shane and Kids Plane

Alluvial fans swept off the base of the mountains as the landscape turned into the red desert of Moab, Utah. Signs of glaciers were marked by sharp ridges and carvings that seemingly pointed us south, where John Wesley Powell first floated the Colorado River with one arm, in wooden boats and not a single life jacket.

It's crazy how just a little bit of history highlights what a bunch of pussies we are.


We touched down in Page, AZ for some low lead fuel and a 5-minute break on the cool leather couches of the pilot lounge.

I'd rather learn to fly than be treated like a stray dog at an airport. I don't do security checks, lines, baggage claim or small talk. I prefer learning to manage a 74-inch propellor that spins just enough to release us from gravity.


Fuel topped off.  We were ready for our final leg home.    


Or so we thought. 


Winds, visibility and weather looked good overall…just some small spots of precipitation to avoid and reports of turbulence.    


Clear prop!  


I turned the key and crammed the fuel mixture in to bring our bird to life.  Our air-screw spun up, ready to carry us over the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff then Phoenix.

On takeoff, our roll out was longer thanks to the stale, dry heat of the summer. Oxygen molecules hate heat.  Therefore, there’s less air for the wing to grab on to and create lift when temps rise.


Skyler side-eyed me as we used up “more than usual runway.” 

The People's Chemist - Shane and Blair flight

Like a boxer with only one foot in the ring, we took our first hit of turbulence early - just seconds after lifting off.


Damn, I wish Blair was with me. Aubrey and Skyler find it impossible to be nervous with Big Brother nearby. So do I.  Blair's the type of guy to find an answer to everything and remind you that you’re doing a great job.

He's just a few weeks out from a 4-year stint in flight school. He was more bent on having his best-summer-ever by taking a road trip with some friends...

Parenting is hard.  

My philosophy is to force them to climb trees, break their arms then get them back in the tree to break the other one.  It’s only two things for 18 years: grappling and reading.  It’s so consistent and tireless that onlookers think I'm callous in my disregard.

They're right.


I don't let my kids make decisions until their pain threshold is high enough for them to learn how to put purpose over pleasure.  It’s not a sure-fire way to live successfully, but it’s a damn good bet at helping them manage their food, fitness and education.  Fortunately for me, mom is strong enough to agree most of the time.


As a bonus, I’m hoping that a high pain threshold helps them get up when they get knocked down - with the resolve of knowing that staying down is to die twice - once when you give up on yourself and the other when your heart stops.

Aubrey sat behind me.  Not able to see her, I keyed the mic.  “Aubrey! Are you ok!?”

We were at 12,500 ft with oxygen stuffed into our noses.  I popped open the windows.  Cool air rushed into the cabin, so did smoke from a nearby fire.  It was the turbulence, though, not the smoke or low vis that concerned me.  I was certain Aubrey was going to need a barf bag or some kind of comforting. 


“I’m good Papa…I think I’d make a great pilot because I’m not sick.”

“Are you sure baby?”

Aubrey sat behind me.  Not able to see her, I keyed the mic.  “Aubrey! Are you ok!?”

“No…cause I think being in charge of the controls up here would be too scary for me.  But, I’m still OK.” 


This was unfamiliar terrain for Aubrey.  This is what I want for my kids - to embrace the unfamiliar.  I don’t want her choosing the familiar and comfortable paths of her peers addicted to technology, food and being conditioned to accept that school is learning, that church is spiritual and that prescription drugs are healthy.  

Today, up in the the vapid air of the Arizona desert, hopefully she learns that she could be a pilot if she wants, or not.  Either way, she knows more about herself than how to text on an iPhone.  

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